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spirited and energetic - 75%

Abominatrix, October 31st, 2003

Back in the early 90s, a group of grumpy Frenchmen formed a sort of circle of bands and projects that became quickly renowned for their abrasive, unstructured music and very underproduced sound, as well as for a true spirit of anger and misanthropy that few people could recognize but which became quintessential to real black metal at around this time. Vlad Tepes is, along with Mutiilation, undoubtedly the most well-known of this elitist circle. "War Funeral March" was originally a demo cassette, but it was released on CD more recently and thus might possibly be easier to locate than other VT releases.

It's also, I'd say, the most polished sounding of all the Black Legions' output. In this particular case, that's not saying much, but unlike some of the other recordings, this does sound like it was done with some decent equipment: everything is perfectly clear and defined, if a little muffled and grainy, there's not much background hiss and the drums sound pretty well miked. Where this is really raw as hell is in the actual playing of the instruments, which seems kind of haphazard, purposefully so i'm sure. Nevertheless, one can hear clear melodies at work here, solos, nice vaguely heavy metal sounding riffs and some pretty neat harmonic ideas. One gets the feeling listening to this that Vlad Tepes are actually capable of some musical prowess, but they don't necessarily care to show it, preferring instead to compose music mostly on the spur of the moment and not fix mistakes. The fact that the drumming is sometimes slightly off doesn't phase them a bit, they just keep on ripping through these sometimes surprisingly rock-based black metal tunes. Yes, though you'll have a hard time getting some people to admit this, Vlad Tepes literally rock; and it's clear that they love their metal and are not really concentrating on being cold and atmospheric. There is a little less of this "rockism" on the split with Bellketre, but it is still there, mostly in some clear homages to Celtic Frost. The vocals are the ugliest element in this mixture, as they seem recorded over the rest of the music sometimes at random, with dual attacks all over the place, multiple screams (so that at times it sounds like a trio of demons are screeching in ecstasy) and fluctuating volume. It's hard to really pick stand-out tracks here, but I think the song "War Funeral March" gets additional points due to its awesome slow, ominous ending section. "Returning To My Old Battlegrounds" also has some great riffs, now that I think of it, and a nasty squealing metal solo.

Obviously, not for those who value high musicianship and classy sound over all else...but those in the mood for something a little more vitriolic and real in the black metal genre might want to give this a try. It's very short, too, so I can't see how boredom would be an option.